Self-Awareness – Metacognition: Fundamental Basis Of Emotional Intelligence & How To Cultivate It

Self-Awareness – Metacognition: Fundamental Basis Of Emotional Intelligence & How To Cultivate It

Self-awareness also known as Metacognition: It’s the fundamental basis of emotional intelligence and everything else in the world of emotional intelligence is built on it. It’s the ability to observe, recognize, and understand your emotions as you experience them. Because,if we couldn’t notice our feelings, we’re at the mercy of those feelings.

Tasha Eurich, who’s an organizational psychologist conducted an extensive study on self-awareness and the research’s conclusion was shocking, to say the least. Research demonstrates, 95% of the people believe they’re self-aware, but in reality, only 12-15% truly are.

Self-aware people can assess their thoughts, emotions and behavior at the time they experience them. They can see how it can be perceived as an outsider. To be truly self-aware, we need to develop the ability to address our emotions with a non-reactive and non-judgmental approach. Far too often we’re unaware of the emotional state we’re currently in, and the magnitude of its impact on our thought process and behavior. By instilling the concept and practicing self-awareness we can manage our emotional states immensely.

Socrates, who was one of the founders of western philosophy said “Know thyself”.Aristotle, a renowned name in Greek ancient philosophy, quoted “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”.Philosophers couldn’t emphasize more on this subject because ultimate wisdom comes with self-awareness.

John Mayer – a psychologist states that self-awareness sheds light on being aware of your thoughts and emotions.Being consciously aware of your thoughts and emotions as you experience them is an invaluable and scarce skill. The mind thinks between 60,000 -80,000 thoughts a day according to experts estimate. That’s why we all think and feel a wide range of different emotions every single day, but only a few of us develop the ability to become aware of our thoughts and moods and analyze them. Wise people say “master the world within and you master the external world automatically.” Self-awareness equips us with the skill to master the world within to succeed in the external world.

There are two types of Self-awareness:

  1. Internal self-awareness
  2. External self-awareness

Internal self-awareness represents how do we see ourselves in terms of personal values, passion, strengths, weaknesses, reactions, cognition and behavior,and their impact on others. Studies have found that internal self-awareness results in higher job and relationship (personal/professional) satisfaction, social control, and directly correlated with contentment/happiness; it has an inverse relationship with anxiety, stress, and depression.

Where as external self-awarenessrefers to the ability to understand how other people view us, in terms of those same factors listed above. Harvard Business Review’s research shows that people who know how others see them are more skilled at showing empathy and taking others’ perspectives. Leaders who see themselves as their employees do, tend to have better relationships with them, are more contented with them, and look up to them.

Based on Dr. Tasha’s 2×2 model there are four self-awareness Archetypes.

Seekers:They have low internal self-awareness with Low external self-awareness.

They’re not entirely familiar with themselves, who they are, How they are seen by others – teams, friends, family, and what their core values are. Consequently, they would feel stuck and disappointed with their performance and friends/family.

Pleasers:They have high external self-awareness but low internal self-awareness.

They can be so conscious about appearing a certain way to others that they could be ignoring what matters to them. Over time, they tend to make choices that aren’t in service of their own success and fulfillment. They may not be fully aware of their own passion, aspiration, thoughts, emotions and behavior, but they’re more concerned and invest their energy in how they’re perceived and seen by others.

Introspectors:They have high internal but low external self-awareness.

They are well aware of who they are and what they want, but don’t critically evaluate their own views or look for blind spots by receiving feedback from others. This can create problems for their relationships (professional/personal) and their growth potential.

Aware:They have high internal and external self-awareness.

They know what their identity is, the thing that they need to achieve, and search out and esteem others’ feedback. This is where leadership starts to completely understand the true advantages of self-awareness. It’s enticing to value one over the other when it comes to internal and external self-awareness. But a true leader actively works on both, seeing him/herself clearly and getting feedback to understand how others see them. The highly self-aware people HBR interviewed were actively focused on balancing the scale and they are “AWARE.” Because self-awareness isn’t one truth. It’s all about balancing the two distinct and competing viewpoints.

There are numerous benefits one can reap by learning and practicing self-awareness, but few of them are mentioned below:

  1. Self-awareness directly affects and boosts your performance, and it also increases the chances of you getting promoted at your workplace.
  2. Self-awareness enables you to communicate more articulately about the goals you’ve set, your vision & mission, Passion, Values, thoughts, and emotions.
  3. Self-aware people tend to foster better relationships with others in personal and professional life.
  4. They would make sounder decisions (both, in personal or professional life) because they know what they want and what’s expected from them.
  5. Self-aware people tend to be more confident because they know their strengths and how to harness them. despite the benefit of having individuals with self-awareness in the working environment, research shows that corporate executives don’t frequently give self-awareness the credit it merits when they search for potential leaders.

 Unfortunately, many executives see it as a weakness who openly acknowledges their shortcomings. They’re mistaken for not being tough enough to lead others. whereas the opposite is valid, people usually appreciate and respect candor.

Now that we have a clear understanding of what self-awareness is and it’s benefits, the question is, how do we cultivate self-awareness?

Be curious about who you are: Spend some time in solitude, connect with yourself. Make it a daily practice, it will help you know yourself better. Your intentions, your deeper emotions, your thought processes.

Journal your awareness: start writing down your thoughts, this shall help you disidentify yourself from your thoughts and see them as what they really are – Just thoughts. You record your thoughts and emotions and see what triggers those emotions.

Practice Mindfulness: Pay attention to your thoughts and emotions as they arise, Also make it a habit to eat, walk and listen mindfully. For eg: while having your next meal, try keeping your focus on the taste, aroma, textures, sound and flavor. Don’t rush, eat slowly and don’t allow anything to distract you. Pay attention to how the food makes you feel.

Seeking honest feedback from loving critics: Taking a third person’s perspective always helps us in understanding how we’re perceived. We can then assess if it’s aligned with our own version. It helps us improve.

Hadi Abbas
Trainer and Consultant

Hadi Abbas is a trainer and currently leading the new projects at Pakistan Society for Training and Development, being an L&D expert he’s also designing and developing eLearning modules on soft-skills for corporates.He hasdone Masters in Advertising from Szabist, Train the Trainer certification from Europe by Scola De Valori, instructional designing, and Mind Mapping certification by Tony Buzan. For the last 8 years, he has worked with European, Middle Eastern and Pakistani companies.

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